Mark Waid said a lot of interesting things in the video interview he did with Blastoff Comics, but one thing really made me sit up and take notice. If you listen to the last couple of minutes of the third video, you’ll catch Waid saying the following:
“Unlike most comics characters, Daredevil is a character who actually gets less powerful over time, in a sense. Not physically, he still has the same powers, but think about how much of our lives we live on screen now, how much of our lives we live virtually. […] It’s a constant thing of people reading things on screen… Newsprint! He used to be able to read newsprint, but he can’t anymore because even if it’s not on screen, printing is not by newsprint anymore – it’s offset printing which means there’s no texture to it. I’m thinking about all these things constantly. How has the world changed, and how has technology left Daredevil’s powers behind and made it even more difficult for him to maneuver in the world? I’m going to hit a lot more on that in year two.”
The observation that most people – and society as a whole – have become more and more focused on screen-based pathways of information, and that this obviously affects Daredevil, is not new and is something Mark Waid has brought up before (as have I on this site). Bringing into question Matt’s long-held ability to read print, however, is a rather gutsy move. Of course, this probably doesn’t mean that all forms of print-reading will go out the window. A more likely scenario is that Waid will take into account the very real situation that different printing methods should greatly affect Matt’s ability to read the text in question.
On the whole, I’m positively surprised (though maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at this point) that Waid is so willing to approach writing Daredevil by sort of going back to square one (i.e. “these are the characters powers and this is the mechanism by which they work”) and analyzing the situation (i.e. “this is what the societal and technological reality currently looks like”) and drawing logical conclusions from this process instead of just relying on old truths that may not be valid at this point.
It has long been established that Matt’s print reading ability is entirely based on being able to discern a particular texture, and he has occasionally been caught commenting on how embossed print or handwriting done with a ball-point pen makes things easier for him to read (see for instance Daredevil #227, the first issue of Born Again). The logical consequence of this is, of course, that printed matter with little to no texture at all would create an opposite situation, text which is difficult or even impossible to read. This would be due to the printing process itself or if the texture has been “removed” after the fact, such as with laminated paper (see for instance, Daredevil: Reborn #1, by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice). However, even with the notion firmly in place that a limit for Matt’s print-reading ability must exist, Mark Waid is the first writer to come out and say he is not going to shy away from addressing it. For this I applaud him.
Of course, there are definitely other abilities that Daredevil has demonstrated over the years that have since become defunct, likely from writers asking themselves the same kind of questions that Waid seems to be doing: “Does this make sense?” For instance, Silver Age Daredevil seemed to be able to discern photographs, a “power” now long gone along with the whimsical notions that he would be able to decode the message in a radio transmission or be hyper-sensitive to radiation.
Even though I characterized this move on Waid’s part as “gutsy” (performing a reality check on a superhero sort of is), I doubt that very many people will object terribly to it. On the contrary, many of the positive reviews the relaunch has been getting have been accompanied by critics commenting positively on the fact that Daredevil’s blindness and heightened senses have become more apparent, and this is a further move in that direction. What are your thoughts? And, what do you think would be a good way for Waid to work this into the book without the more conservative fanboys throwing a continuity fit?
For more on the notion of reading print by touch, see my old post “Daredevil Science and the sense of touch” including all the comments. We had an interesting discussion for that one! 😉